Wednesday, March 18, 2009

All in the game

Dan Lett joins the chorus of righteous indignation against how the now semi-nationalized AIG took bailout money and spent it on executive bonuses.

I wonder: what did anyone think AIG was going to do with the bailout money? Purchase forbearance and moral reasoning? What makes money that was mooched any more virtuous than money created?

Both the U.S. government and AIG should not be upset with the other, since they knew what they were getting into. The U.S. government should not be upset, for when they provided them with the bailout money, they were saying to AIG "what you are doing is so good, we think you should be able to continue doing it (at the expense of your betters)."

When AIG accepted the money, they agreed to the game and shouldn't be surprised politicians like Democrat Senator Tom Udall say things like “Give the bonuses back, or we’ll find a way to take them back.” That is what they signed up for.

(But maybe the U.S. and AIG didn't know what they were getting into, and thus, according to prevailing reasoning, deserve another bailout...)

Anyway, AIG Chief Edward Liddy now seems to be
figuring out how it's going to work.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Friend of the nightlife

Being Thursday, former Free Press Editor-in-chief Nicholas Hirst had an opinion article, which again supported downtown and rightfully bemoaned its lack of after-bank hours vibrancy. I like Mr. Hirst's support for downtown living, but it seems from his article today that things like "[a] pub for the University of Winnipeg" are matters of political vision; as if Lloyd Axworthy, Sam Katz and some key stakeholders should (or could) sit down and plan one.

Anyway, there is a relatively new pub "for" the U of W, it's called the Lo Pub, two blocks east of campus on Ellice and Kennedy Street. So far, it has been tremendously popular when concerts are happening there, but at any other time (that I've seen), it's been practically empty save for the employees and a friend or two sitting at the bar. The pub's apparent inability to keep students downtown into the evening most likely has to do with (drumroll please) so few of its current and potential patrons living nearby the way the Toad on Osborne does. Even if there were, there is still a lack of corresponding businesses open in vicinity (corner stores, diners), to make the impact it might have on foot traffic isn't that strong.

(Then of course there is the matter of that three-block behemoth, leftover from the last time the City "made it happen," that obstruct Kennedy Street. So even if and when the Lo Pub brings young people downtown, Nicholas Hirst would never see them walking to and from it on Portage Avenue.)

Another small measure that might help, Mr. Hirst suggests, is a shuttle for Portage Avenue. Unless by "shuttle that runs along Portage" Mr. Hirst meant "subway that runs under Portage," or even "a streetcar that runs along Portage," I don't see the point. As Jimmy Cotton wrote: "There is a shuttle that runs along Portage ave already, it's called the #11 , #24 #22 and the #21 buses [sic]."

Several comments to this article at the Free Press, including this one: "I'm sympathetic to Mr. Hirst's observations,and his recommendations are bang on, but he overlooked the most obvious solution. Get more people living downtown, not just visiting daily. When people live downtown, the rest will come naturally. As a former downtown resident (now a downtown resident in Calgary) I spoke highly of living in downtown Winnipeg. It was terrible news that Crystal Developers backed down from their apartment development [edited]. I would have been delighted to welcome new faces to the neighbourhood."

I wonder what bad word this astute commenter used that was edited. Something with four letters that starts with "F"? Like "Fort"?

Friday, March 06, 2009

Gee whiz!

A buflyer200 posted some incredible, never-before-seen (by me, anyway) photos from Winnipeg Transit's archives. Here are a few:

A civil age. Passengers, c. 1940s

Looking East on Selkirk Ave. from Salter St., late '40s

Looking West on Portage from Donald St.

North on Donald Street, to Princess Avenue

South on Donald from Ellice Avenue

Portage at night, West from Fort Street

When walking the beat wasn't an "initiative." Portage looking to Main

Fort Street from Portage

Portage and Notre Dame

Looking South on Osborne to Stradbrook Avenue, c.1920s

Confusion Corner, pre-Confusion. Looking North on Osborne. The apartment block is still standing today at the NE corner of Osborne and McMillan Avenue.

Did he mention our healthy parking lot supply?

The gods of the Eastern press have finally smiled down upon Winnipeg, as the Toronto Star publishes a rather positive article by Noah Richler (son of the great Mordecai Richler) on his recent visit to Winnipeg.

Photo by St. Vital's favorite son Wintorbos of I, Ectomorph fame

Fortunately for the city's fragile sense of self, Mr. Richler avoids the "D"-words one might expect to find in a story on Winnipeg (depressing, desolate, dirty, dangerous, et c). But perhaps more hard than being embarrassed, is to take note of the means of Mr. Richler's enjoyable visit to Winnipeg: old buildings downtown, and what entrepreneurs do with those buildings (not to mention in what is locally known as the "over-development" of The Forks). Imagine that.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Working together

Cub Free Press reporter Kelly House reports that Heritage Winnipeg will be moving into the 127-year-old Kelly House on Adelaide Street, after its owner, who could not afford to renovate three months ago, will now spend $100,000 to help renovate the structure.

"One of city's oldest structures to house group promoting heritage restoration

11:25 AM |

"Kelly House, one of Winnipeg’s oldest structures, will be preserved as the new home for the organization that promotes heritage building restoration , a city hall committee heard Tuesday morning.

"The city’s downtown development agency and the owners of Kelly House announced they had reached a deal to restore the diminutive 1880s building at 88 Adelaide Street in the Exchange District..." (Continued)

It is good to see the house will be saved and used again, but this looks a little peculiar when observations made earlier this month are considered; mainly Heritage Winnipeg's lack of opposition to demolitions favored by Centre Venture over the past year, and their big support for the Kelly House (not to be confused with the new FP reporter of the same name), which, as it happens, Centre Venture did not want to see demolished either.

Good PR move for both groups.

Sunday, March 01, 2009


--in theory

Letter to the editor, Free Press January 30, 2009

"We are increasingly hearing about so-called 'win-win compromise' proposals to redevelop heritage buildings by demolishing the structure, but retaining the façade. The recent proposal of Manitoba Hydro to use the approach of "facadism" to create a high voltage hydro substation and dead zone in the heart of the Exchange District is an alarming example of this dangerous road. Choosing facadism should remain an exception and never considered an easily justifiable practice. It has been declared unacceptable by the City's Historical Buildings Committee as well as various international conservation organizations.

Buildings are much more than facades, and cities more than mere collections of structures. Focusing on individual buildings is piecemeal and short-sighted, and will impoverish the historic flavour of our Exchange District.

Councillor Jenny Gerbasi
Chair, Historical Buildings Committee

--in practise

"Heritage label a surprise," Free Press, March 1, 2009

"[Sport Manitoba has] been working toward a compromise that will still allow for construction of the 29,000-square-foot fieldhouse while at the same time maintaining the facades and other historical features of the warehouse.

"'It's at the conceptual stage and there's still a need for final approvals, but the historical buildings committee is comfortable with what they're bringing forward at this point and there's sort of an approval-in-principle..."

"If there's an understanding in principle and then everything just carries on like that, then there'
s certainly nothing standing in the way there... the final approval still has to happen, but it's going very well.'"